Results tagged ‘ Darren O'Day ’

Looking Ahead To 2015: The Bullpen

There is nothing harder in baseball than putting together a good bullpen. No matter what team you’re a fan of, you’re sure to remember the year the lights-out bullpen that ended up being one of the league’s worse. Conversely, many a team has gone to the playoffs when a little-regarded bullpen suddenly became dominant.

Unless your name is Rivera, closers can go from 45 saves one year to 15 the next with said closer replaced by another 100-mph fireballing phenom in mid-season.

Neftali Feliz

Neftali Feliz

Look at the Texas Rangers. In their World Series years of 2010-2011, the bullpen was one of the team’s strengths. Neftali Feliz replaced Frank Francisco just a week into the 2010 campaign as closer and rode that train for two years. Darren O’Day was a waiver claim who had an incredible 2010. On the other hand, Koji Uehara should have been the final bullpen piece when the Rangers acquired him at the deadline in 2011. He pitched so poorly for Texas he was left off the World Series roster. A year later he was dominant again and now he’s the closer for the Red Sox.

Year to year consistency in the bullpen is the toughest thing to acquire. Among the many ills for the Rangers in 2014, the bullpen was one of them.

Under the circumstances, one could make a case that the Rangers relief corps kept the team from finishing worse than 67-95. While not as formidable as earlier years, they were overall middle of the pack in the American League in contributing a 4.0 WAR. Much of that came early in the season, when the pen consisted of veterans like Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria, both of whom got sent packing at the trade deadline to pennant contenders. And, while the WAR was decent, the Rangers were a piddling 13th in Saves and 11th in Holds.

General Manager Jon Daniels has a philosophy when it comes to bullpens. The main mantra is “Save your money”. Outside of closer, you’ll seldom see Texas spend any substantial dollars on relievers. The aforementioned Frasor pitched two years in Texas, both times on 1-year contracts. Same with recently departed Neal Cotts. Occasionally Daniels will spring for a 2-year deal. Outside of O’Day, those get reserved for proven closers (Joe Nathan, Soria).

Daniels does like to gamble a little with the bullpen. He’s constantly acquiring relievers with big league experience but got released by other clubs due to injury. Success stories include Cotts and Soria, but there have also been busts, such as Nate Adcock and Kyle McLellan. But what the heck, they didn’t cost much money so do real harm there. Daniels mixes these low risk, high reward veterans with young bucks from the farm system whose contracts are under club control for the foreseeable future. It’s worked pretty well during the Daniels regime and it’s what the Rangers once again looking at in 2015.

Tanner Scheppers

Tanner Scheppers

The Knowns

What is certain for the Rangers is the closer will be Neftali Feliz, back in the role of his greatest success during the World Series years. Feliz missed most of 2013 to Tommy John surgery and moved back to closer in 2014 after Soria got traded to the Tigers. His velocity isn’t what it once was but he says he finally has most of the zip back.

Texas hopes the 8th inning set-up man will be last year’s Opening Day starter, Tanner Scheppers. Feliz, Scheppers and the departed Robbie Ross were the final nails in the coffin that was Texas trying to convert relievers into starters. It worked once with CJ Wilson but failed miserably with the other three. Scheppers and Feliz are now okay with their roles. Scheppers was the best set-up man in the AL in 2013 and the Rangers are hoping he’ll return to form.

Shawn Tolleson was one of Daniels’ low risk, high reward signings a year ago. Coming back from Tommy John, Tolleson was a respectable 2.76 ERA in 64 appearances and 71.2 innings pitched with 69 K’s. He was a little homer prone, giving up 10 dingers. Tolleson will be the 7th inning reliever. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is already saying Tolleson looks better in the early going of camp than he did all of last season.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Texas Rangers

Shawn Tolleson

The Unknowns

Four more spots are open in the bullpen and be assured whoever starts the season is in no way guaranteed of being there in September. Among the farmhands, the hopefuls include Alex Claudio, Phil Klein, Spencer Patton and Jon Edwards, who all got a taste of the bigs with the Rangers in the last month of the 2014 season.

A young heat thrower who hasn’t reached the major league level yet is Keone Kela, but he isn’t considered a factor in Arlington until later in the season at the earliest.

Joining the competition are those LRHR players Daniels loves, including Kyuji Fujikawa, Japan’s all-time saves leader whose move to America and the Cubs resulted in yet another Tommy John surgery; Juan Carlos Oviedo who, when pitching as Leo Nunez, saved 113 games from 2009-2011 with the Florida Marlins; and ageless veteran Jamey Wright, back with the Rangers for the second time in a career that has spanned 19 years and 10 different teams.

The most thankless job in the bullpen is long reliever. A pitcher in that role might go two weeks between appearances, then be asked to make a spot start two days after throwing 2 1/3 innings in a game. Veteran Scott Baker admirably filled that role for the Rangers last year and it’s a darn shame nobody has signed him for 2015.

For the Rangers, the likely long man is whoever the last man out is in the competition for the #5 starter. At this writing, the prediction would be for either Ross Detwiler, Nick Tepesch or Nick Martinez to fill that role.


Bullpens are more works in progress than any other part of a ball club. No matter the predictions here, out of the seven member relief corps that starts the season, odds are good three of them will be gone by season’s end. If Texas can improve on last year’s 4.0 WAR pen, they’ll be a playoff contender.



The Kids Are Alright

Five days later…

As a fan, the sting of losing Game 7 is gone. Sure, it’s disappointing. I told a Cardinals fan I know that Game 6 made me feel like Charlie Brown, with Lucy pulling the football back at the last second. Twice. I still can’t quite find the desire to turn on a lot of Sports Talk radio, for fear of hearing pundits lay into my Rangers for the way they let this one get away, but I still have a wife who loves me (most of the time), children and grandchildren who love me (most of the time) and two dogs that love me all of the time (as long as I walk them and feed them), so life is good.

The off-season has begun and with it, the makeover of the Texas Rangers to put them in the best position possible to make yet another assault on a World Series Championship. Honestly, this may be as boring an off-season for Rangers fans as there will be.

Here’s the big drama: Will CJ Wilson be back and will the Rangers succeed in signing Japanese phenom pitcher Yu Darvish? Other than that, anything else that would happen to this Rangers team will qualify as a surprise.

Wilson is the only free agent of note for Texas. According to an report, CJ says there’s a “great chance” he’ll return to the Texas fold in 2012. Other reports have said the Rangers plan to cut ties with the lefty and proceed heavily towards getting Darvish in the fold. In this case, I’ll trust CJ’s actual words for now. Who knows, maybe both Wilson and Darvish will be part of the 2012 rotation. The Rangers are also said to be one of the favorites to get Darvish, a 25-year-old who compiled a 1.44 ERA in the Orient this past season.

I read something interesting today concerning Darvish and Japanese pitchers in general. Over in Japan, apparently, they still stick with a 4-man rotation instead of the stateside five. Darvish is said to have as many as ten different pitches at his disposal. The interesting point made was comparing Darvish to Daisuke Matsusaka. The article (in Baseball Prospectus) said when the Red Sox got Daisuke, they made him whittle his repertoire down to five pitches. It went on to speculate the combination of this and giving him four days rest between starts instead of the three he was used to could help explain Matsusaka’s underwhelming Red Sox career. If so, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers treat Darvish differently than the Red Sox did Daisuke (assuming the Rangers get Darvish, of course).

Texas exercised the option in Colby Lewis’ contract, as well as reliever Yoshi Tateyama. The latter signing could mean the end of the road in Texas for Darren O’Day, who is a sidearming righty like Tateyama (albeit with much more zip on the ball).

There will be some arbitration battles coming up. Obviously, Mike Napoli is going to garner a huge payday whether it goes to an arbitrator or not. There could be speculation the Rangers will cut ties with Yorvit Torrealba thanks to Napoli’s strong season. Torrealba is only going to be making a little over $3 million in 2012, so I have a feeling they’ll keep him.

Other than that, this team is pretty set. Most players are under contract already. There could be some second tier players released, like Endy Chavez, Matt Treanor and Andres Blanco, but those won’t change the makeup of this team very much.

Speculation has been raised about the rangers going after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to fill the one weak spot on the field, first base. I just don’t think Texas is going to get involved in those high dollars, preferring to use them on pitchers like Wilson and Darvish.

There are other items I could throw out there, but all in all, this shouldn’t be as dramatic an off-season as last year was.


Riding The Scooter: Rangers 2, Rays 0


Scott Feldman

Two years ago, Scott Feldman had to be on top of the world. With a devastating cutter, Scooter was the Alexi Ogando of 2009, slated as a bullpen piece but pushed into the starting rotation due to injury. If I’m not mistaken, I believe he replaced Matt Harrison at the time. He never relinquished control of the rotation and ended up leading the Rangers with 17 wins, procuring for himself a hefty raise in the process.

To mark the achievement, Scooter was given the honor of being the Rangers’ Opening Day starter. He began the season much as 2009, with a number of workmanlike performances. Nothing outstanding, but nothing horrible. After just a few starts, however, horrible started rearing its ugly head. Feldman’s cutter stopped cutting. Instead of weak ground balls, he was giving up solid line drives. The ERA continued to balloon.

By the time the magical season of 2010 was over, Feldman (along with #2 starter Rich Harden) were but a memory for Rangers fans. Feldman ended up on the DL, never came close to sniffing a post-season roster position and underwent microfracture surgery on one of his knees in November.

Going into 2011, Feldman was being counted on for…nothing. At best he was a longshot to be the Rangers’ long man in the bullpen out of Spring Training. Even that was doubtful due to his recovery from the surgery. Scooter began 2011 on the DL. When he finally began rehab starts in AAA Round Rock, it was doubtful he would even see Rangers Ballpark in Arlington during the season, unless he decided to watch a game in the stands.

When his rehab time had run out and the Rangers had to make a decision, they asked Scooter to allow himself to be removed from the 40-man roster and remain in Round Rock. Having the right to refuse, Feldman exercised his right. As a result, Darren O’Day was sent to Round Rock and Feldman returned to the Rangers, strictly as the long man in the bullpen.

Feldman didn’t even appear in a game for the Rangers for almost two weeks after his return. What few appearances he did make, however, were fairly solid, certainly a lot better than most of the performances of his predecessor, Dave Bush.

When Matt Harrison began to falter his last couple times out and complained of tired legs, Feldman was awarded a one time only spot start (only the 3rd needed by the Rangers all season long), replacing Harrison last night to face the Tampa Bay Rays.

Feldman had arguably one of the best pitching performances of his career, going six shutout innings, allowing no runs on a measly two hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Rangers fans saw that devastating cutter cutting once again. Scooter’s groundout to fly out ratio was 13-0! Neftali Feliz had a rough 9th inning, loading the bases before getting the last out to preserve the shutout.

The first game featuring no Nelson Cruz or Adrian Beltre in the line-up was not good for the rangers offense, but a Josh Hamilton solo homer turned out to be all the offense that was needed for Texas to maintain their 3 1/2 game lead over the Angels.

Last night was supposed to be a one time only start for Scott Feldman. I predict six days from now, when the Rangers visit the Rays in Tampa, Feldman will again get a start, this time in place of Alexi Ogando.

The Days The Music, The Oriole & The Rangers Died

What the hell is going on?

First I read that Jerry Leiber died- the writer behind such songs as “Hound Dog”, “Kansas City”, “Yakety Yak” and “Love Potion #9”, a veritable treasure trove of 50’s and 60’s hits.

The same day came word that Nick Ashford had passed away, one of the prolific songwriters from the mid-60’s to the 80’s, whose hits included “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need To Get By”, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”, “I’m Every Woman” and “Solid”.

Two days later comes word of the apparently self-inflicted death of former Baltimore Orioles left-hander Mike Flanagan, a pitcher I saw many a time at Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium during my college years. Flanagan was a worthy successor to the Orioles pitching-rich history of the late 60’s and 70’s, picking up the mantel from the likes of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar. Flanagan had one of the best breaking balls in baseball during his prime.

All of these bits of bad news sandwiched around the worst run the Texas Rangers have been on all season as they’ve now lost successive games to the Boston Red Sox by counts of 11-5 and 13-2. One week ago today, the Rangers were within three outs of a 4-game sweep and an 8 game lead on the Angels. A walk-off homer by LA made it a 6-game lead instead and now, a mere seven days later, Texas finds themselves only 2 1/2 games up on the Halos, who have won another five games in a row since their dramatic comeback in the series finale with the Rangers.

Tuesday’s loss hurt, as the Rangers were facing John Lackey, who has pitched worse against the Rangers than any team he’s faced in his career and even worse when it’s been in Arlington. I saw Lackey in person in the 2nd game of the season, one which saw Texas whack five home runs en route to a 12-5 win. This time, again Lackey wasn’t great, but Colby Lewis was terrible. Lewis is starting to resemble Derek Holland. They both have had great versions and horrible versions with very few average performances in between. The Bosox scored two runs in each of the first three innings and never looked back.

Wednesday was more of the same. This time Boston jumped on Matt Harrison for a 4 spot in the first and Josh Beckett was well on his way to his 11th win. Darren O’Day was called up from AAA Round Rock to help spell the bullpen and had a truly odd line score: 2 innings, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts and 2 home runs resulting in four runs.

Now it’s up to Alexi Ogando to stop the bleeding in the series finale. He won’t be opposed by Tim Wakefield looking for career win #200. Why? Because as bad as Lackey has performed in his career against the Rangers, Wakefield has been even worse. Nelson Cruz, in particular, has a great line against Wakefield: 6 for 6 with two doubles and two home runs.

The Angels have tonight off so the lead at the end of the night will be either two games or three with the Angels coming to town for a three-game set starting tomorrow.

Much as we’d love to, we can’t bring back Jerry Leiber, Nick Ashford or Mike Flanagan. It would be nice, though, to see the Rangers pitching come back to life. Preferably tonight against the Red Sox.

Getting The Mojo Back: Rangers 8, Indians 7

Some games just defy description.

In what has been a rare occurrence in 2011, the Texas Rangers truly pulled one out of the hat, picking up a win that should easily have been a loss and keeping the red-hot Angels a game back in the standings.

Derek Holland stunk up the joint, Elvis Andrus had another one of his errors on an easy play which added to Holland’s misery, the long man, Scott Feldman, had to leave early because of a blister problem and Texas was down to their last out in the 9th trailing by two.

Enter Michael Young. After Josh Hamilton got a single off Indians closer Chris Perez to keep the game alive, Young drove a 2-0 pitch over the wall in center to tie the game up at 7 apiece. This after the Rangers trailed 6-1 in the second inning, thanks to another of Holland’s black and white performances. Dutch is either brilliant or terrible. There are seldom any in-between starts with him. Holland leads the AL with four shutouts, including three in his previous five starts entering play Friday. One other start was a six inning one run performance. The other two? A seven run in 5 1/3 inning game and last night’s 6 runs, 4 earned in only an inning and 2/3. If there’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in baseball, it’s Derek Holland.

The Rangers kept chipping away. They scored single runs in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd off Ubaldo Jiminez, making his Indians debut, to keep it reasonable at 7-3 after three. Feldman kept the game close, giving up just a solo home run in his 3 1/3 innings of relief before leaving the game with a blister on his thumb. While the rest of the Rangers pen kept throwing zeros the rest of the way, Texas scored two in the 6th to chase Jiminez, including a solo shot by Mike Napoli, who now has five homers in his last seven games.

It stayed 7-5 until Young’s 9th inning, two-out heroics sent the game into extra frames. In the 11th, that old Rangers magic of 2010 returned.

It started with two quick outs, bring Elvis Andrus to the plate, just trying to keep the inning going for one more batter. Andrus succeeded with a perfectly placed bunt single, atoning for his error in the 2nd inning. He  immediately went to second on a wild pitch. Josh Hamilton then hit a slow roller to short that certainly looked like out #3. Except Hamilton’s head first slide into first beat the throw. With two outs already, Andrus never stopped running. By the time Tribe first baseman Matt LaPorta realized what was happening, the throw to the plate didn’t stand a chance of getting the speedy Andrus. Run scores, Rangers win on an infield single that scored the runner from second.

The 5-run deficit is the largest the Rangers have overcome to win a game in 2011. It also gives Texas a two game winning streak for the first time since the 12-game winning streak ended two weeks ago.

This last time through the rotation has been tough. Only Alexi Ogando had a quality start amongst the starting 5. Tonight’s starter, CJ Wilson, has had two bad outings in a row and admitted to having terrible mechanics after his last start. Good thing the bullpen was reinforced at the trade deadline. Even with 9 1/3 innings of 1-run relief Friday, Texas still has two bullpen pieces who didn’t pitch last night, and rumor has it another reliever, probably Darren O’Day, will come up from Round Rock for Saturday’s game, replacing Ogando, who has been granted a short paternity leave.

Regardless of the outcome tonight, I don’t see how it could possibly top last night in the thrills department.

Trade Targets

As the trade deadline fast approaches, I’ve read all kinds of speculation of who the Rangers are going after. Among the prominent names are Mike Adams and Heath Bell of the Padres, Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, maybe even a starter along the lines of Matt Garza of the Cubs. Carlos Beltran of the Mets has been mentioned as an offensive possibility, but it appears doubtful the Rangers have any interest in changing up their offensive line-up.

A lot has also been written about the minor league players the Rangers are likely to give up in making any trade. Among those names listed as “untouchable” among Rangers prospects are Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Martin Perez.

What’s been mentioned less and what may bear looking into is this: are there any players on the current Rangers 25-man roster who could be leaving in the next two weeks in a trade?

Minor leaguers are sure to be changing hands, but chances are at least one major league player will be leaving Arlington. It happened a year ago when Justin Smoak was the player that ended up bringing Cliff Lee to Texas instead of sending him to the Yankees.

The idea of losing a member of the major league roster was less likely a couple weeks ago, when Julio Borbon was being talked about as a major bargaining chip while he was rehabbing in Round Rock. Unfortunately, Borbon has just had ankle surgery and is unlikely to be anything but a minor piece of any trade, if at all. Chris Davis is also down on the farm in Round Rock and the odds are pretty good he’ll be included in a trade, with San Diego a definite possibility as a destination.

On the current major league roster, though, there also exists a possibility of 4th/5th outfielder David Murphy being moved. Murphy was a valuable part of the 2010 team and remains valuable today, although the performances of Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry has meant less need for Josh Hamilton to play center and that has lowered Murphy’s playing time.

Yorvit Torrealba‘s name could come up in a trade. He’s a proven starting catcher and, while he’s performed fairly well for Texas in his first year here, Mike Napoli has performed much better than expected behind the plate, he has more power and a much higher on-base percentage than Torrealba. Thus, the R’s might be willing to let him go and, instead of the current 60-40 playing arrangement, make Napoli the regular catcher with Taylor Teagarden as strictly a back-up.  

It would be a surprise, but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see Nelson Cruz become part of a deal. Cruz has 21 HR and 58 RBI this year, yet most regular watchers would agree Cruz just hasn’t looked comfortable at the plate most of the year and is striking out much more frequently.

On the pitching side, Derek Holland‘s name has come up in trade talks. Holland has great potential, as judged by his two consecutive shutouts recently. He’s also been inconsistent with his command all year, making it possible the Rangers would be willing to part with him if they got the right starter in return. I’d hate to see it, but would understand the reason if it were to happen.

Other than those four, I don’t see any other Rangers being part of a trade package. Texas is looking to upgrade the bullpen especially, so it’s doubtful another team would want any of the Texas relievers not named Feliz, although maybe Scott Feldman or Tommy Hunter, both bullpen parts who have had some success starting could be of possible interest. Darren O’Day, currently at Round Rock, is another pitcher with previous major league success that could go elsewhere. Feldman and O’Day in particular have higher priced contracts, thus lowering their trade potential.

Those are the players on the current roster who could go elsewhere in a trade. The next question would be, who are the most likely players to get dropped from the roster to make room for new players coming in? That’s a subject for another day.

The Teams, They Are A Changin’

Another weekend, another lackluster Texas Rangers performance. This time, those world-beating New York Mets came into Arlington and whipped the boys in red, white and blue two out of three, pretty much putting to rest the notion that home runs win ball games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. With nary a dinger to their name compared to seven by the home crew, the Amazins were the better team, even when you throw out the bad umpiring.

I can’t attest to the bad calls on Sunday, though there were plenty of takers in the Twitterverse, but the one that really hurt was the one on Saturday that NO ONE on the field saw, but everybody else did. With Michael Young on first to lead off the 2nd inning, Nelson Cruz took ball four on a 3-2 pitch. Except nobody noticed it was ball four. Not Cruz. Not the home plate umpire. Not the Rangers dugout. Instead of two on and nobody out, the at bat went two pitches more than it should have and Cruz ended up striking out. One could argue it wouldn’t have made any difference in the 14-5 final but, at the time, it was only 3-0. The game was still within reach. Instead, Texas mildly went down in the second, the Mets added three more in the 3rd and the route was on.

I didn’t see Sunday’s game, but apparently there were two or three other bad umpire’s calls that went the New Yorkers’ way, but there was enough offense by the Mets that even good calls wouldn’t have mattered.

Meanwhile, Elvis Andrus hurt his wrist and is out of the line-up until at least Tuesday. Josh Hamilton tried red contact lenses on Saturday to see if it improved his abysmal average in day games. He struck out four times. For some reason, Ron Washington saw fit to give Josh a day off in the day game on Sunday. Any theories?

The weekend edned the same way it began, with the Texas Rangers laying claim to being the worst team in first place in baseball. I’m willing to bet the makeup of this team will have changed by this time next week. The first one is easy: as long as he performs well tonight, Darren O’Day will be activated and back on the roster Wednesday. I’m still pretty certain Scott Feldman will be activated sooner rather than later. And I can’t help but feel there’s a trade coming soon. There’s a rumor the Giants are talking to Texas about Yorvit Torrealba, but I can’t see anything happening there at least until Mike Napoli comes back from the DL. Meanwhile, Torrealba is actually one of the hottest hitters on the team right now.

The Rangers are in desparate need of relief help. They’re also in desparate need of a swift kick in the pants to get their heads into the game. The number of mental lapses this team has had in 2011 before the All-Star break I’m sure exceeds the mental errors committed by the 2010 team thorughout the entire season.

I often give Ron Washington a pass from some of his curious in-game managing decisions. Washington is not a brilliant on-field strategist, but he is a great leader and motivator. Now is the time to give him some grief. Washington is finding out once a team has come close to the pinnacle (or passes it), they need a new motivation. Before, the chase was the motivation. It’s becoming clear to this fan that this team, or the non-pitching part of the team in particular, is playing like they deserve to be in first place instead of going out there to earn it. The only exceptions, in my mind, are Michael Young and Mitch Moreland, who have been consistent performers since Game 1.

No teams with winning records are on the Texas schedule from now through the All-Star break. It’s time to put some distance on the rest of the West. And if accomplishing that means changes have to be made, let’s start making them now.

Why I Didn’t Write About The Houston Series And Other Sundry Matters

When the San Francisco Giants recorded the final out and won the 2010 World Series over the Texas Rangers, I was so emotionally drained that, beyond a few general platitudes to the Giants that night, I couldn’t write another word for this blog for a week.

Something similar happened when the Astros sucked the air right out of what should have been a three-game sweep with a dramatic 4-run ninth inning to beat the Rangers in the series finale, 5-3. Pretty much everything that has bothered me about this year’s Rangers were on display in that game- an offense that seemed to be performing well (only 2 of 9 regulars would be considered slumping right now), yet was only scoring a minimum of runs, a defense that’s supposed to be one of the league’s best yet leads the league in errors (with another one on Wednesday), and a bullpen that was more and more inclined to not come through when needed, including a closer who’s supposed to have electric stuff looking at times no better than your average AAA pitcher coming up to make a spot appearance in the majors before heading back to oblivion.

Texas leads the league in blown saves, are tied for the most errors in the bigs and have lost a game in the late innings in double figures for the year, yet somehow is still parlaying this ineptitude to a 2 1/2 game lead in the amazingly weak AL West. We all expected it to be tougher to win the West this year, but most figured it would be becuase of improvement from the other three teams in the division. What we DIDN’T expect was Seattle improving a lot, Oakland and the Angels staying the same and Texas getting WORSE.

Josh Hamilton was quoted in an article that he’s almost surprised the Rangers are in first place, considering how they’ve played, and he would be right. The reason the Rangers continue to be in first is because the rest of the AL West teams have offenses that are performing even worse than the front-runners, leaving their superior pitching staffs to shake their heads and wish they had an offense of Texas’ caliber. Hamilton went on to say the team needs to start playing with more of a sense of urgency. Again, there’s no disagreement from this end.

Yes, the Rangers’ last game was so disheartening to me, I couldn’t find the energy to write anything in this space, but it didn’t stop me from reading in other spaces. Trust me when I say I may have been disheartened but the Rangers brotherhood was ANGRY. Angry at Ron Washington for putting Neftali Feliz in the game in the first place, angry that Dave Bush was asked to pitch the 8th, angry with GM Jon Daniels for putting together such a poor relief corps, angry Michael Young was still playing third base in the late innings (Houston had two doubles down the left field line in the 9th) and angry Josh Hamilton wasn’t pulled in the 8th when it appeared he was favoring his hamstring (he chose not to try to score from 3rd in the 8th on a ground ball that normally would have brought a run home). If there was something to be angry about, it was expressed on the message boards I check.

But it is over now. The venting has been done. Now, as this year’s AL All-Star team manager so frequently says, it’s time to focus on the game at hand. Tonight, that is the start of a three game set with the New York Mets. One reason this series could be important beyond the Win-Loss record, is it gives the Rangers a first-hand look at Frankie Rodriguez, whose name has been linked to the rangers as a possible trade target in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, this space has noted some of the other big stories of the day- Jim Riggleman’s resignation as manager of the Nationals topped the sports pages today. I’ve heard both sides and I think Riggleman made an unwise choice, although I’m pretty sure he had every reason to feel dissed by his GM.

Meanwhile, one of the few offensive bright spots for Oakland, Josh Willingham, was placed on the DL, further helping the Rangers cause to repeat in the West.

Lastly, the Phillies placed Roy Oswalt on the DL with a bad back and Oswalt himself thinks it may be the end of the line for his career. Oswalt came very close to being a Ranger, from my understanding, but this was before the ownership change occurred and the MLB front office wouldn’t allow the Rangers to take on Oswalt’s contract at the time. Hate to say it, but I’m sure glad that happened. Who knows how Texas would have been handcuffed with that salary on the books?

Help is on its way to the Texas pitching staff. All indications are that Darren O’Day and Scott Feldman will be back soon- both are scheduled to pitch tonight for AAA Round Rock and I think both will be on the Rangers roster come Independence Day. Who goes when that happens? My initial guess is Dave Bush and Michael Kirkman. Most of us think it’s time for Texas to cut Arthur Rhodes loose, but there’s more money tied up in Rhodes than Kirkman so he’ll probably survive at least the first round of pitching changes. Bush would have to clear waivers and could be lost if someone puts a claim on him, but I doubt anyone will object if someone else claims him.

Let me close this rambling post with another “regular fan” vs. “sabermetric fan” observation. I’ve stated many times here my attempt to understand and appreciate some of the more new-fangled stats as well as the times I disagree with some of them and why. My latest observation? I’d me much more inclined to listen to more of the saber fans if some of them stopped acting like “their” stats are so superior to everyone else’s. One person who’s opinion I read regularly is constantly filling his (or her) posts with statements like “Ignore ERA. It tells you nothing.” (Nothing except the opposing team is scoring a lot of runs when he pitches); “It doesn’t matter that Ian Kinsler is hitting .235. His WAR is 2.2 so he’s having an outstanding year.” (He is doing well defensively and he’s got a good OBP, but anyone who actually watches his game on a regular basis knows he’s not performing offensively anywhere near his capabilities); and “Alexi Ogando’s FIP proves he’s no more than a good #3.” (even if it does, what’s wrong with that? Every team needs a good #3). I sometimes wonder if this person even bothers to watch the games. I’m waiting for him (or her) to say something like, “Forget that they finished 79-83. The combined WAR of this team was the best in the bigs.” OK then. But it would still make them losers.

The News Gets Out Fast, Tweet Tweet, Tweet Tweet

Having become a recent Twitterer (@RangersBlogger if you want to “follow” me), I have just recently come to realize how quickly news spreads through the Twitterverse compared to the real world.
Take Tommy Hunter, for example. Remember Tommy Hunter? Big, beefy guy. Won 13 games for the Rangers in 2010. Started Game 4 of the World Series (the game I was at!). Hasn’t been heard from in 2011 due to not one, but TWO pulled groins- one at the end of Spring Training, the other on his last pitch of a rehab outing. Oh, yeah, that guy!
Hunter has been making rehab starts at AAA Round Rock for the last couple of weeks. Today it was announced he would be pitching tonight for Round Rock- in relief. Further, all his rehab appearances from here on out will be in relief.
Ladies and gentlemen, within a span of three minutes, this tidbit had reached my Twitter In-Box from no fewer than six sources I follow. This is now news because it gives every indication that the Rangers brass has decided Hunter’s role with the big league club in 2011 will be in the bullpen. This is a nod to the job Alexi Ogando has done as a starter in Hunter’s place. Now the question is, will Hunter serve in short relief or long relief/spot starter duty?
Best guess here is that Hunter will be used as a 2-inning guy, in there to get Texas through the 7th inning before making way for Mark Lowe, Darrin Oliver and maybe Darren O’Day in the 8th. He doesn’t strike me as the kind of pitcher you’d use for one inning two out of every three games.
Speculation is also running rampant in Ranger Land that Derek Holland‘s days as a starter in 2011 may be coming to a close, as Hunter’s fellow rehabber Scott Feldman has had two pretty good outings at Round Rock. Not sure yet how I feel about that. At some point, the Rangers have to stick with a plan for Holland instead of yanking him back and forth. On the other hand, Feldman won 17 for the Rangers in 2009. If he can come close to that form, he’s a definite asset as a starter. As they say on 1st place teams, this is a good problem to have.
One other note from the minors: Chris Davis has been playing left field lately down at Round Rock. While some may say this is another way the Rangers have of increasing Davis’ trade value, I think it’s more indicative the Rangers may be trading David Murphy before the deadline, bringing Davis back to the bigs after it happens. Davis has more power potential than Murph and if he shows he can cover left field even close to what Murphy has, it would make more sense to have Davis there.
Ten minutes away from the first pitch of Texas-Houston Game 3 at RBIA. Looking forward to a sweep!

Looking For Silver Linings: A’s 3 Games, Rangers 1 Game

After the euphoric three game home sweep of the Royals, the Rangers celebrated by dropping three of four at home against the Blue Jays, and now three of four on the road to the A’s.

It’s been aparticularly gruesome time to be watching Texas Rangers baseball. The starting pitching that was so strong in the early going has encountered some problems, particularly Matt Harrison or, as one web site so aptly put it, “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Harrison.” As good as Harrison’s first three starts were, his last two have been the polar opposite, including Sunday’s 1 2/3 inning, four run debacle.

It would be easy to lay much of the blame on the lack of Josh Hamilton in the line-up, but the reigning AL MVP doesn’t have anything to do with the Texas defense committing 18 errors in the last 12 games. Even a defensive whiz like Elvis Andrus has been affected. He’s up to 7 errors already on the young season, putting him on pace for almost 40 errors (Elvis had 21 a year ago). As much as I ragged on Michael Young in a previous post for his abysmal D at first base when he plays there, EVERYONE is joing the E parade. Outfielders, infielders, pitchers. If there was a way for the DH to commit an error, right now the Rangers would find a way to do it.

Even without Hamilton, this should be a potent line-up, but the offense is bipolar as well. Sandwiched in between a one and two run performance against the A’s was an 11-run outburst in the second game of the set. The problem has been, outside of Young, nobody is hitting with any consistency, although Elvis is starting to hit a little better. But the biggest culprit to the Rangers offensive inconsistency is Nelson Cruz. The boomstick has fizzled. Since Hambone went down, the Rangers #5 hitter has sputtered, hitting a weak .203 with 26 strikeouts in only 77 at bats. It’s awfully tough to get a sustained rally going when your biggest power hitter is barely contributing.

Still, I take comfort in the following:

1) The Red Sox, who lost three in a row to the Rangers and almost lost three in a row to the Mariners, are an astounding 5-0 against the Angels this year, helping the Rangers stay tied for the AL West top spot at 16-13.

2) That 16-13 record is a game better than the Rangers’ mark a year ago, and we all know where Texas went from there.

3) It’s pretty funny watching the message boards at the other Rangers sites, where the Michael Young haters are really digging deep to explain why the only consistent offensive force right now for Texas is still somebody the team could easily do without. Even I have to admit that, despite his defensive shortcomings, Young played a GREAT defensive game at second base in Monday’s series closing loss.

4) Chris Davis still doesn’t have an RBI for the Rangers this year, but he’s not stinking up the joint in his latest stint. Since striking out in three of his first four at bats, Davis has since gone 4-13 with two doubles, three walks and only two K’s. I still think Texas would be better served with another outfielder on the roster as opposed to Davis, but he is being productive in his limited playing time.

5) Seeing the young pitchers get an opportunity in important situations. Cody Eppley, Ryan Tucker and Pedro Strop have all gotten some meaningful innings. Strop has command issues, but has also gotten out of some jams of his own making. Eppley has given up only a solo home run in his first four appearances. Tucker struck out the side in his first outing against the A’s on Friday and gave up an unearned run in his second outing on Sunday. While the bullpen is in desperate need of Neftali Feliz coming off the DL on Friday to close games out, these three show the loss of Darren O’Day as a 6th/7th inning righthander might not be as severe a loss as initially thought.

6) CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland all had pretty good starts against the A’s. Not great, but pretty good. Harrison has posed a problem, but there’s been good news reported on the rehabbing Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman. Help could be on the way soon.

7) Osama’s gone bye bye.

Three games against the Mariners to close out the road trip. Lay an egg in Seattle and I might not be seeing quite so many silver linings. Still, it’s pretty easy to see that, with better defense and Nelson Cruz coming out of his slump, this team could improve a lot very quickly. It’d be great if it started tonight.

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